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There has recently been a huge uptick in demand for Remote Java Developers.
The number of remote software engineering roles is increasing year on year and whilst there are more schools teaching coding and more academies like General Assembly, the demand for good remote Java Developers is outstripping supply.
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Let’s look at the different types of remote team member.
Fully remote, perm
This is an employee, the main difference being they don’t come into the office every day. Some might work fixed hours, other are working flexible hours, but they are a permanent employee, under a contract of employment with the same rights as other employees.
Limited by Time Zones - Some companies want to have daily stand ups and the majority of the day with everyone working together (albeit miles apart), this means they will restrict remoteness to timezones (eg GMT +/- 3hrs) - clearly -3hrs is quite limiting as it puts you in the middle of the Altantic
Fully remote, contract
This is a contractor, who is providing services to the company under a contract (could be a week, could be a month, could be six). Again this person is not office based, and depending on the terms of their contract could be working fixed or flexible hours.
Part remote, perm: (required to attend the office every x days)
This is permanent employee that can work at home, but is expected to travel into the office and work with the team face to face every so often. That could be once a week, one a month or even once a quarter. Clearly the less frequent the office visits the further the remote worker can be from the office, some even travelling by plane once a month. Depending on the company they might even offer to cover travel expenses (if you don’t as you don’t get)
Part remote, contract (required to attend the office every x days)
Similar to part remote, perm, this is a contract role that allows the contractor to work remotely but at the same time requires regular site visits for team meetings etc.
Here are some of our thoughts, suggestions and general observations on why you should go ‘Remote’
Access to a new, wider talent pool.
Whether you are based in San Francisco, London, Berlin, Paris, Sydney, Barcelona and you are trying to source software engineers you are one of a thousand tech firms competing for the same talent. You might think you have the hottest tech stack, funkiest office, best stocked beer and drinks fridge, more games than you can shake a game controller at, but sorry to burst your bubble - so has everyone else.
Of course we all know about Facebook, Google etc and their super cool offices, free gourmet lunches, climbing walls etc dotted around the globe, but even companies that you wouldn’t automatically associate with being the cool kids on the block have upped their game to attract the best talent. Check out these Tech Crunch Cribs videos
One possible solution is to look further afield; whether that’s within your home country or across the globe. There are plenty of amazing engineers who work remotely and they are actively looking for remote java jobs! (the added bonus is they are highly talented and experienced in the practices of working in remote teams.
Managing remote teams
One of the downsides of remote teams is the physical distance between the team members. You might think in this highly connected world that this isn’t an issue, but please don’t underestimate the effort needed to keep everyone connected. There is a big difference between being tooled up to the max and managing effective internal communication.
It’s so easy for those quick 2 minute ‘huddles’ where everyone within earshot quickly gets involved (you know the ones) to morph into a key product decision and everyone who wasn’t at the party (usually the remote guys) to be be completely oblivious until they see the end result (“oh that’s nice - when did we decide that”).
Clearly you can’t choke spontaneous thinking (it’s where some of the greatest ideas come from), but it’s the team’s responsibility to feed that back into the remote team members to get them involved. If they start to feel left out they will be disenfranchised and the cohesiveness of the team will be affected.
You might think that since the whole team sits there from dawn till dusk with their noise cancelling ear muffler / headphones nodding along to Spotify whilst tapping away on their keyboards on hip chat or skype, that verbal communication is dead, but it’s those spontaneous moments that can cause a huge rift.
Daily stand ups become hugely important, those 10 minutes where everyone is away from their desk, updating the rest of the team on their progress are crucial to bonding the team and keeping everyone in the loop. Depending in team size skype is a perfectly capable tool to bring everyone in.
Weekly updates - At our previous start up we tried to have an all hands every couple of weeks (my bad, this didn’t always happen, will try and fix that this time around!) - we were only 15-20 people so everyone gathered round a lap top (one in London and one in Guernsey, we were co-located rather than remote).
Most of the time it involved a mix of product roadmap updates and analysis on the impact (both positive and negative) of the latest big release - ie did it shift the metric we were aiming to shift (did we reduce churn, did we drive down cost per new customer, did we increase virality etc). It’s important that everyone feels involved in the end results - no one wants to be a code monkey where their only involvement in the project is their next jira ticket.
We also invited anyone in the team to host a session, this could be the head of UX to talk through her latest thought on the new lobby layout to the head of analytics talking about a new dashboard in Tableau.
Open video channels - we didn’t try this but feedback from teams we’ve spoken to have said this works well. It really depends on the office set up and whether your ISP is delivering the bandwidth! but just keeping skype open can make a huge difference - it doesn’t mean it has to be too intrusive, but it’s a constant reminder that everyone’s working together.
Chat groups - whether it’s Google hangouts, Hipchat, Skype or Slack there are so many to choose from. My advice is try and get everyone using the same tool, it’s no good if half the team are using HipChat and the others are using Skype. Also, IM isn’t a substitute for good old fashioned verbal chit chat. It’s amazing how long you can spend on an IM discussion compared to a call.
Not everyone is cut out for remote work
Someone described this perfectly recently - hire ‘doers’, they’ll still need direction and guidance but ultimately you need people who just get on with it.
If you are operating a flexible work schedule you can’t be constantly worrying. You need to hire people you can trust to deliver.
Can you mix up remote Java developers with in-office teams?
Some say you need to make a call: all remote or all in the office. Personally we think you can mix it up, but you still need to make sure the remote teams all feel part of the team. As soon as you get into a situation of them and us, you’re in trouble.
Whichever way you do it, you should aim to get everyone together as often as practical. It might not be possible to do it all at once (last thing you want is a support call and everyone’s 30,000 ft in the air). We noticed a reduction in nit picking and an increase in banter after getting team members together.
Regular catch ups with your remote developers
Even though you can offer greater flexibility, you still need to set up regular virtual catch ups. These shouldn’t be limited to direct reporting lines. We tried to set up 1/4ly or half yearly catch ups with the CEO where everyone from marketing to engineering would have a relaxed chat. Sometimes these only took a few minutes, but sometimes much, much longer. Never assume people will come an tell you their thoughts or concerns randomly - some people need a nudge to spill the beans.
At Geektastic we plan to have a mix of office based and remote team members, with flexibility to come into the office or work from home. But these processes and tools discussed here are baked into our DNA to help make it work.
Let’s look at the term ‘remote’ developer.
Also known as telecommute, telework, home worker, work at home, even a digital nomad (whilst that night conjure up the image of the girl sitting on the beach with a lap top this is hugely popular and thanks to co-working spaces dotted round the world with decent wifi and aircon office space allowing software engineers to travel the world from Medelin to ChangMai, both digital nomad hot spots)
Over the past 10 years this type of work has become much more popular as employees strive for a richer life work balance. Longer and longer commutes (which are damaging to the environment, not to mention stress levels), the advances in tools to allow instant communication and the lack of supply of talent within office catchment areas has driven both employees and employers to shift to a more distributed workplace.
Lots of companies have now embraced flexible working hours but more and more are accepting that the world is changing, the days of strict 9-5 are long gone. Employees want to shift their hours to suit their lives, some prefer to start early and finish their day earlier, others prefer a later start to the day and don’t mind working into the evening. At Geektastic we embrace this 100%, Charles our CTO who cycles into the office prefers to miss the lovely London early morning congestion and travels in late morning but can regularly be seen crossing London Bridge after midnight on his way home.
Software engineering is particularly suited to remote work. It tends to be quite isolated with engineers getting buried deep in their code for hours on end and actually the best results are achieved if they are not being constantly interrupted by product managers or even CEOs trying get an update on the latest product and likely release dates. It was always a bit of a joke that productivity would would actually drop when Rick our CEO would be in the offices wandering around interrupting everyone’s train of thought with endless questions.
Engineers are also more likely to embrace technology to communicate, lots of tools are built into the SaaS platforms engineers use to facilitate non face to face communication. Hip Chat within Jira is a good example – Atlassian realised there was demand for an instant chat tool to complement their project tracking software so they acquired hip chat back in 2012.
Slack – most companies that have embraced remote teams will use Slack. It’s a replacement for email and allows teams to set up channels and groups all within the chat tool
Trello – great for managing and sharing projects large or small. Cloud based solution allows teams to collaborate and keep updated on projects. Think of it like a digital wall covered with digital post-its.
Skype – whilst it has its issues, mainly with headphones working one day and not the next and it not being great when there are too many different users in the same chat it’s free and pretty ubiquitous.
Google Hangouts – like Skype it’s a free video and voice over IP tool fully integrated with Google Docs